Deng Xiaoping

The Communist Party Must Accept Supervision


Published: April 8, 1957
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


The Party and Party members should be subject to supervision, a point which was emphasized at the Party’s Eighth National Congress. Recently Chairman Mao stressed in particular that a set of rules and regulations should be formulated for the convenience of supervision. He said that we should allow others to challenge us with opposing views, because this is better than acting alone. Our Party is the ruling party and enjoys high prestige. A good many of our cadres hold leading posts. In China who is in a vulnerable position to make big mistakes? None other than the Chinese Communist Party. When it makes such mistakes, the effects are most widespread, so the Party should be particularly careful. The Party’s leadership position is stipulated in the Constitution. If the Party wants to exercise good leadership, it should constantly overcome subjectivism, bureaucratism and sectarianism, accept supervision and expand democracy within the Party and the state. If we do not accept supervision or work to expand democracy within the Party and the state, we shall surely cut ourselves off from the masses and make big mistakes. If we handle affairs behind closed doors, rest content with our long years of experience and refuse to listen with an open mind to opinions from the masses and non-Party people, we are most likely to become uninformed and consider problems in a one-sided way, thus inevitably making mistakes. That is why Chairman Mao has been repeatedly stressing this matter ever since our victory in the revolution. This shows his keen foresight.

The supervision I have just mentioned comes from three sources. First, supervision by Party organizations. As far as Party members are concerned, supervision by Party organizations is the most direct supervision. Stricter demands should be made on Party and Youth League activities; that is, the Party and Youth League organizations should exercise stricter supervision over their members respectively. Second, supervision by the masses. The masses’ supervision over the Party and Party members should be expanded. Third, supervision by the democratic parties and democrats without party affiliation. It is also necessary to expand their supervision over the Communist Party and its members. With supervision from these sources, we shall become more prudent and better informed, and we can prevent ossified thinking and avoid being one-sided in our approach to problems. It is not good for Party members to be either too cautious or too bold. It is always better for them to stand in awe of the Party, the masses and the democratic parties; it is better to be ever prudent.

With regard to the masses, democracy should be expanded in all respects. We should see that the People’s Congress and the Political Consultative Conference hold their sessions successfully. It is of great benefit to hold fruitful sessions of the people’s congresses and political consultative conferences at all levels. The recent session of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference was a success; the participants spoke out freely and put forward many useful suggestions. Democracy should also be expanded in the management of factories, mines and other enterprises. This was emphasized in the directive issued recently by the Central Committee on dealing with workers’ and students’ strikes. Workers’ congresses should be instituted and their role strengthened — this requires expanded supervision by the masses in factories, mines and other enterprises. The resolution of the Party’s Eighth National Congress touched only one aspect of the question, that is, the system of the factory director assuming full responsibility under the leadership of the Party committee. The recent directive on handling workers’ and students’ strikes stressed the other aspect — the system of supervision by the masses under the leadership of the Party committee. Now we have two systems: one, from the top, the system of the factory director assuming full responsibility under Party committee leadership, and the other, from the bottom, the system of supervision by the masses under Party committee leadership. Supervision by the masses is all for the good of leading comrades in factories, mines and other enterprises, making them act more prudently. Supervision by the masses can help arouse their initiative and encourage them to contribute many good suggestions. I have heard, however, that administrative leaders in quite a number of factories, mines and other enterprises are still not convinced why they should be supervised by the masses. They always seem to feel that, without supervision, they can issue orders at will and can act arbitrarily without hindrance. The fact that a considerable number of leading comrades remain unconvinced shows how essential and vital this supervision is. In rural areas we should also expand democracy, running co-operatives democratically. The tendency of rural cadres towards authoritarianism stems from the undemocratic working style of leaders at higher levels. With rigid planning, compulsion is almost unavoidable. In Shanxi Province the peasants are complaining, saying, “You try to have a finger in every pie.” When we were in southern Shanxi, we found that the local authorities had decided that cotton plants be topped on the fifth day of the eighth lunar month, except those not up to the specified height. Cadres measured the plants in the cotton fields with rulers. Those who followed the instructions gathered only 300 kg of cotton per hectare, whereas those who did not follow the instructions gathered 375 kg. How can this be called a progressive measure? This is misuse of the Party’s prestige. The peasants had no alternative but to follow the Party’s call. If this sort of thing happens only occasionally, the masses can put up with us, but they will not if it goes on and on like that. Democracy should also be increased in schools. Trade unions of teachers and administrative staff as well as student unions should have roles to play so that the opinions of the teachers, administrative staff and students can all be heard. School leaders should try to solicit their opinions. Promoting democracy will not hamper unified leadership. Does our army not lay particular stress on centralism? We also practised democracy in fighting in the past. Did that hamper our unified command and leadership? Only by maintaining a strong unity between higher and lower levels can things be done easily. In fact, the masses are quite tolerant of difficulties and mistakes as long as they are involved in activities. Conversely, if we simply issue orders, they will be unhappy even if we handle matters correctly. Therefore, it is very important to broaden democracy in all endeavours and increase supervision by the masses.

The policy of “long-term coexistence and mutual supervision” between the Communist Party and the democratic parties and that of “letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend” have already been explained by Chairman Mao, and I have nothing to add. I just want to say that quite a few people within our Party are not convinced about these policies and do not understand their advantages. These policies are extremely important to our country and highly advantageous to our Party and to the development of Marxism-Leninism. If we do not “let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend”, our thinking will become rigid and our Marxist theory will decline. Only by doing so, by enabling people to express their different views and argue, can we further develop Marxism and dialectical materialism. In this regard, Stalin made some mistakes, because the policy he formulated was too rigid and oversimplified. As a result, Marxism declined for a period of time in the Soviet Union. The policy of “long-term coexistence and mutual supervision” has the same advantages. It is better to have supervision than not and it is better to let everybody contribute ideas than to let only a few people do so. The Communist Party approaches problems from one angle, while the democratic parties approach problems and can contribute their ideas from a different angle. This will serve to bring up more problems and have them solved more comprehensively; it will facilitate decision making; the principles and policies thus formulated will be more appropriate; and even troubles that crop up can be remedied more easily. Therefore, we should all try to see the merit of these policies.

Is it not true that disturbances are now breaking out in some places? Is it not true that some people are advocating “greater democracy”? Somehow, some young people believe greater democracy can solve the problem. We are not in favour of having greater democracy. It can be prevented, provided there is “lesser democracy”. Without lesser democracy there would have to be greater democracy, because the masses need to find outlets for their anger. Our idea is to provide places for the masses to vent their anger, places for them to speak their mind and places to make appeals. The suggestions of the masses fall into the following categories: Some are reasonable and should be accepted and put into practice; it would be wrong to ignore them, which would be bureaucratic. Others may be basically reasonable, in which case the reasonable part should be put into effect and explanations offered concerning the part that cannot be put into effect. Still others may be totally unreasonable, in which case we should explain to the masses why. In brief, the masses should have plenty of opportunity to air their views, offer suggestions and give vent to their anger — at people’s congresses, political consultative conferences, workers’ congresses, students’ congresses, and so forth. Greater democracy can be avoided if there is lesser democracy. Nobody would demand greater democracy and no workers or students would go on strike once the masses have vented their anger and every effort has been made to solve their problems. We do not advocate greater democracy, for it is not a good thing. Hungary tried it, and it will take several years for it to recover. It is the people who have suffered. The same thing happened in Poland, and it will also take quite a long time for that country to recover. So, let us hope no greater democracy will be practised here. It is not worthy of emulation. However, since there will always be people guilty of gross bureaucratism, occasional disturbances are unavoidable. This still is no cause for alarm; in such situations we should just stay calm and try to face the masses, rely on them and explain things to them painstakingly. Then, disturbances will subside.

If we do what I have just said, our Party will be able to continue exercising leadership and will not be overthrown, because we are among the masses, not being sectarian in relation to them and non-Party people, not being bureaucratic towards the masses, or being subjectivist in handling matters. If our Party was able to exercise good leadership in the past, it will be able to do so in the future as well. Whether the Communist Party possesses the qualifications to exercise leadership depends on the Party itself. Whether other people recognize our qualification is another story, but even if they do not, it is no cause for alarm. We would be qualified even if they don’t think so, just as we would not be qualified even if they think we are. In the final analysis, this depends on ourselves. Does the Communist Party have the ability to lead the schools at the present time? And what about science? I am afraid that at present it is not capable yet. In Chairman Mao’s words, it is able, and at the same time unable, to exercise such leadership. As to the Party’s political leadership, which is laid down in the Constitution, it seems that it does not present a problem; but not all Party members are capable of that. If the Communist Party practises sectarianism, subjectivism and bureaucratism in leading others, it will be unable to exercise leadership no matter how much it says it can. Without correct methods and thinking, it cannot lead or rally the people around itself. Of course, the Party knows little about any one specific branch of science. Therefore, it should ally itself with others to do such work. In short, whether the Party is qualified for leadership depends on its thinking and work style.

So long as the Party and its members maintain close ties with the masses, accept their supervision, learn things with a modest attitude, do their work continually and conduct ideological and political work among the masses, our Party will undoubtedly be able to lead national economic development to success, just as it did the revolution in the past. It will also learn how to carry out development and manage the economy in a fairly short time in order to turn China from a backward agricultural country into an advanced industrial country.

(Excerpt from a report delivered at a meeting of cadres in Xi’an.)